Grammar

Myself, Yourself, and Other Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are the ones that end in -self or -selves. We use them when the subject and object of a sentence are the same. The example sentence below sums it up pretty well:

When I look in the mirror, I see a reflection of myself.

Like an image in a mirror, the pronoun “myself” reflects back to the subject, “I”.

Why do we need reflexive pronouns?

Let’s look at two similar sentences:

Whitney is looking for an apartment for her.

Whitney is looking for an apartment for herself.

Most people reading the first sentence would assume the pronoun “her” refers to a female friend or relative of Whitney’s. Perhaps Whitney works in real estate and she is finding an apartment for a client. A reader is unlikely to think “her” refers to Whitney.

By contrast, the second sentence makes it clear that Whitney is looking for an apartment for Whitney. Since it sounds awkward to use someone’s name over and over again in the same sentence, we use the reflexive pronoun “herself”.

Different subjects, different reflexive pronouns…

How many different reflexive pronouns are there? In the table below, you will find the more often-used subject pronouns in the left-hand column, with the corresponding reflexive pronoun on the right.

Subject PronounReflexive Pronoun
Imyself
you (singular)yourself
you (plural)yourselves
hehimself
sheherself
ititself
oneoneself
weourselves
theythemselves

Now for some more examples…

In the following example sentences, both the subject (which is sometimes a pronoun and sometimes a name) and the reflexive pronoun are written in boldface.

I treated myself to a nice lunch at the new Thai restaurant downtown.

Ji-min has not given himself enough time to finish the report.

You need to take better care of yourself, or else you will get sick.

You children should be ashamed of yourselves for dressing up like clowns and scaring that poor old lady! (In this sentence, the “you” includes more than one person, so “children” is highlighted. Note the use of “yourselves” instead of “yourself” which was used in the previous sentence.)

We need to prepare ourselves for a tough winter.

Let’s go home now. The mess can take care of itself. (This one has an extra sentence at the beginning to show some context.)

Lisa, Rashida, and Glenda were pleased with themselves after their presentation.

What about sentences like these?

Express yourself!

Be sure to clean up after yourselves.

Don’t hurt yourself!

These are imperative sentences, where somebody is telling someone else to do—or not do—something. The subject of these sentences is “you” (either singular or plural), even though the word “you” isn’t actually in these sentences.

Common mistakes

The most common mistake that writers make with reflexive pronouns is using them when they should simply use a subject pronoun or an object pronoun. Therefore, here are some examples of what not to do:

Yassir and myself will be handling this account. (Instead of “myself”, “I” would be correct in this sentence.)

I can take care of this matter with a little help from yourself. (“You” is correct here, not “yourself”.)

Please send your resume to Mr. Bing and myself. (The object pronoun “me” would be correct here rather than “myself”).

If the above examples sound a little business-y, that’s because the misuse of reflexive pronouns is most often seen in business contexts.

If you still aren’t clear about when to use reflexive pronouns, click the blue box below to receive help from one of our TextRanch editors. It is also worth noting that this topic was suggested to us by one of our customers, so if you have an idea for a blog article, please leave a comment below.

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